The Hindu Temple is a central element in all aspects of everyday life in the Hindu community. To a Hindu, the temple is significant not only for its religious elements, but also for the elements of culture, society, and education that it brings to the community (Batchelor). Temples are an integral part in the life of any Hindus, whether he or she lives in Northern India, Southern India, or as far away as the United States. Hindu temples have been being built in India for thousands of years, and as is the case with any structure with such far-reaching boundaries of time and location, structural differences will exist between the temples of the different areas. The temple is an integral part in the daily life of Hinduisms. Not merely a pretty building to look at and admire, to a Hindu the temple is the center of intellectual, artistic, spirituals, educational, and social elements of daily life. The temple "is a place where God may be approached and where divine knowledge can be discovered" (Batchelor). For this reason, the "temple is designed to dissolve the boundaries between man and the divine. Not merely his abode, the temple 'is' God. God, and therefore by implication the whole universe, is identified with the temple's
In many southern temples, these gopurams became the most striking feature of the entire structure, overwhelming the actual temple itself (Batchelor). It is not possible to state exactly when the Hindus started building temples. Of the surviving ancient Indian brick and stone temples, the earliest can be dated back to the fifth and sixth centuries (http:www. "The architecture attempts to dissolve the boundaries between human beings and the divine, seeking to stress the unification with the divine as the ultimate aim" (Kumar). "All of northern India, from the foothills of the Himalayas to the central plateau of the Deccan, from Gujarat in the west to Orissa and Bengal in the east, is furnished with temples of the northern style" (Michell 86). In the Shastras, the ancient Hindu texts on architecture, "temples are classified into three different orders; the Nagara or "northern"tm style, the Dravida or "southern "style, and the Vesara, or hybrid style, which is seen in the Deccan between the other two. The room itself is small, and the statue is nine feet tall. Less obvious differences between northern and southern temples include the ground plan, the selection, and positioning of stone-carved deities on the outside walls and the interior, and the range of decorative elements that are sometimes so numerous as to almost obscure the underlying architecture. This structure is evident in the photograph of the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tamilnadu, in the central southern peninsula of India. As Michell says, "differences in language and culture have always existed between the river plains of northern India and the peninsula to the south, and the earliest surviving brick and stone temples going back to the fifth and sixth centuries are clearly divided into broad categories of 'northern' and 'southern' styles" (Michell 86). But by far the most numerous buildings are in either the Nagara or the Dravida styles" (Batchelor). The floor plan is divided into squares, usually either 64 or 81, the central nine of which are occupied by Brahma, with the rest occupied by various planetary divinities, such as the Sun and the Moon (Michell 71). This link to social and spiritual can be seen in the architecture of the temples.